Data-Driven Creative Strategies in a Cookieless Future

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By Rhonda Shade, Senior Director Creative Strategy at Incubeta

We’ve begun a new year but change has been on the horizon for marketers for some time now with the deprecation of third-party identifiers. The impact this will have on the advertising ecosystem is multifaceted and will continue to evolve.

We’re already feeling the effects of privacy updates and regulations currently in place. How it will change data-driven creative campaigns specifically, is significant and now is the time for marketers to tackle this head-on.

Data-driven creative (DDC) strategies that rely on the third-party cookie will require a new approach. It doesn’t have to be a step backward but marketers will need to start shifting their tactics accordingly and take the opportunity to experiment, test and learn.

We have time to do this given Google’s delay to phase out cookies in the Chrome browser, but it’s important to start that process now.

Reliable First-Party Strategies

It all starts with a look at where your campaign relies on third-party cookies currently. Auditing your data inputs and identifying how your campaign will be impacted is the first step.

First-party data is at the heart of future-proofing DDC campaigns moving forward. Shifting to a new audience framework that uses first-party data informed by on-site behavior and sales data is a way to inform creative and recreate some of the data-driven strategies impacted by the cookie, such as re-marketing.

From there, you can begin to compare and test durable tactics using your own first-party data or by leveraging solutions that are privacy safe. This will lay the groundwork for a durable data-driven creative solution.

Durable Signals and Data-Inputs

Contextual strategies are a great way to speak directly to what audiences are interested in by matching the campaign messaging to the content it’s being served into. Aligning creative with its context can significantly improve engagement and be that “right message at the right time” that resonates.

This is not new but it can take a lot of work to set up if done line item by line item. Luckily, there are automation techniques to help simplify this approach to make it easier for brands to successfully execute this strategy.

There will also continue to be custom signals that marketers can use to create relevance. APIs (application programming interface) such as weather, financial data or mapping will not be interrupted due to the loss of the cookie or other privacy-related issues. Using these signals, creative can be informed in a privacy-forward way, augmenting what we don’t know about the user with what we do know about their environment.

These continue to be great ways to tailor creative while respecting the user’s privacy. We must once again embrace all that contextual strategies have to offer, taking advantage of durable signals, technology and rapidly evolving capabilities to take campaign engagement to the next level.

Unique Custom Ad Experiences

Another approach to personalization is by creating assistive, tailored help experiences for your audience directly within the ad. Technologies exist to make this possible to do at scale such as conversational artificial intelligence (AI), visual search or even voice-enabled ads.  These custom ads offer personalized recommendations, not through cookie-informed targeting but through the user’s engagement and interaction with the unit, giving them complete control.

Let’s also not forget to think beyond the browser. Developments in connected TV (CTV), digital out-of-home (DOOH) and streaming audio are all channels that offer personalization.

Multiple channels of delivery can help reach new audiences but they all have a different mindset. It’s important to align creative delivery with the device and platform of consumption, keeping in mind the different ways that audiences are experiencing or engaging with them.

Automate For Effectiveness

Once you have your foundational durable solutions in place, the next step is to enrich them with opportunities to run more testing for insights throughout the process. A/B testing is more important than ever but don’t wait until the campaign’s post-analysis.

Assess performance in real-time, testing durable campaigns in parallel with existing campaigns to gain a deeper understanding of what works and what doesn’t. Utilize the technology available by taking what has been a manual process in the past and use automation so that optimization can be easily applied.

Use a measurement infrastructure to test, listen and evaluate. Having  the right testing framework will help you ask the right questions and develop an understanding of the outputs. Creating a streamlined process of extracting the data is as important as having the solution to do so. This is what continually informs the creative — surfacing data insights that will help to make smart optimizations possible while advancing your data-driven creative strategy.

With a privacy-minded approach, together data and creative will finally take center stage in driving business growth. Harnessing first-party data and ensuring it’s frequently audited will offer a trustworthy foundation to build on.

Marketers who start now will have the benefits of valuable insights into their customers’ needs and preferences. Showing your customer that you value their business by understanding their needs and responding to them will be an opportunity to forge a relationship that will only become stronger — and you don’t need a cookie to do that.